A Blazer Win

posted in: Design Thoughts, Random 6

Now that my beloved Portland Trail Blazers have ended their latest season, way too early and painfully again, I’m turning my disappointment away from their losses to concentrate on a positive side of the team instead — their unique logo. As a graphic artist and industrial designer, I find the specific qualities of the logo make a unique and dynamic design statement.

I don’t follow other sports closely, but using the NBA as an example of sports logo looks, there are only three types. The first, and most common type, is the representation of the team’s mascot/name/image… like a bull, a bear, a wolf, a bird or whatever.  The second group feature the basketball itself as either the main graphic element, or held by the mascot. And the third group builds a logo around an iconic image of their location, like a famous bridge, mountain or a rocket. And finally, type elements run the gamut from being a major component of the name/logo, to almost an afterthought.

One of these things is not like the others!


And then there’s the one- of-a-kind “Blazers” logo. It doesn’t focus on any of those other elements. It focuses on the game of basketball itself. The original story I read about it said one of the founders, Harry Glickman, asked his cousin Frank in Boston to design him a logo for the NBA basketball team he was creating in 1970. With no guidance or direction from Harry, cousin Frank created his own vision of the logo. It was a graphic representation of five players on two teams coming up against each other at center court for the opening tip off and spinning away into the action afterward. The logo has affectionately been nicknamed “the pinwheel” through the years. The logo has evolved with minor changes five times through the years, but the original concept remains unchanged. And in its latest incarnation, the five parallel bands representing the players are now connected across their lead edge as a sign of a joined team spirit. As a logo designer myself, I’m sure I know the feeling Frank had when the vision hit him. Eureka!! That’s it!

And here is the special beauty of this logo. Once in a rare moment, we discover the barest essence of a concept or vision that brings it down to its simplest and most basic elements necessary to convey its message to the audience. This logo achieves that! Thank you, Frank Glickman. I’m not sure he was even a basketball fan, because if he was, he might have succumbed to the   mascot and ball norms that were already out there. He chose to start from scratch, and he created an original design. I almost see the players running around the court every time I look at it.

As for the type elements of the logo, it currently features a large PORTLAND under the logo, and a smaller TRAIL BLAZERS under the city. Between 1990 and 2004, the team largely went by the name BLAZERS, before reverting to its original full name since then. With Oregon being one of the first states to legalize marijuana, I half expect to see the Blazer name licensed on some alternate branded products. Down the road, perhaps a Blazers lounge might become popular for some of the halftime crowd.

This is my attempt to see the positive in the Blazers right now. I’m hoping that next year we will be talking about playoff wins instead. Highly doubtful, but what’s a fan to do? Go Blazers!!

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Bill Giobbi (bgob1) is founder and owner of Linea Forma Design, a 38 year old design firm specializing in creating graphic content for print, web and video. He is a graphic designer, industrial designer, model maker, technical illustrator and a digital 3D content creator/animator, with a love of all things design.
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6 Responses

  1. bgob1

    At least they are good at logos.

  2. Gayle

    OMG I love this! Who knew?! Makes looking at ALL the logos way more interesting! Kudos to the Blazers for taking it in a different direction. Thanks for the insight as usual.

    • bgob1

      I love my Blazers…..logo. Colin and I had a few fun words about it.

  3. Elisa Mills

    Fun, optimistic and respectful post!
    Go Blazers!!

    • bgob1

      Had to say something nice…

  4. Veda Nomura

    Very interesting post, Bill. I didn’t realize that the Blazers had a one-of-a-kind logo like that! (Roman Mars on 99pi would be impressed!) The logo looks very classy!